The Wines of Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romanga, especially Emilia, the area between Piacenza and Bologna and Parma in the middle, is one of Italy's most renowned regions for its cuisine, but what about it's wine.
Unfortunately, globally-speaking the wines of Emilia-Romagna are another story. Only 10 per cent of the regions wines have been granted DOC or DOCG status. This is not anything because the region isn't suitable for quality wine production, far from it, the area around Romagna in particular are similar to the fertile vineyards of their neighbouring regions, which seemingly produce much better wines. Unlike the fertile valley of the Po valley in Emilia, which produce a sea of mass market, generic Lambrusco, in Romagna they grow classic native Italian grape varieties such as Sangiovese, Barbera and Trebbiano on the the slopes on the northern edge of the Apennine mountain range. The region Emilia-Romagna lags behind other Italian wine producing regions is due to it's socio-economic situation, how else can you explain why similar varieties, planted in often far worse soils are producing much, much better wines. In other regions Sangiovese and Barbera and producing classic wines of often unbelievable quality, their producers are forever taking the varieties into new styles and supplying great wines to what, on the whole, has now become a discerning market. The reason for this is down to simple economics, the winegrowers of the Emilia-Romagna region have, almost without exception, been organised into huge cooperatives, whose mass-marketing policies and concentration on simpler, more generic wines over the recent decades has led to the regions image of poor quality wine production. As an example, a single Emilia-Romagna cooperative processes grapes from over 100 square miles (27,000 hectares) of vineyards.
The regions most famous wine, but not always for it's quality is Lambrusco Albana di Romagna, the pride and joy of the Romagnoli, which can be made either dry or sweet white styles. In the areas of Parma, Modena and Emilia-Romagna, people believe that only sparkling wines match the areas cuisine. The region produces not only the famous, or perhaps infamous, Lambrusco, but also produces sparkling wines from Barbera and a host of other varieties. Lambrusco, like Prosecco, was originally not a brand or a name of origin, but a grape variety, or to be more precise a family of varieties with other 40 different forms. Traditional Lambrusco is a far cry from the insipid, uncharacteristic, generic and often sickly-sweet Lambrusco served in Italian restaurants all over the Uk in the 1970's, sometimes sadly often to this day. Classic Lambrusco is very dry, with a certain fruity character that unfortunately didn't fit into the remit of the cooperatives Lambrusco vision.
The peak, or perhaps the trough of Lambruscos heritage was when cooperative producers began to market their wines in Aluminium cans, in an attempt to conquer the American market and take on the might of Coca-Cola - an absolute commercial disaster as I'm sure can be easily imagined. The rather unpleasant sweetness of Lambrusco was really nothing to do with the Lambrusco grape, but the mass-insistence to blend Lambrusco with the Ancellotta grape variety, who's large scale use was permitted under Italian wine law. Thankfully, winegrowers are now producing a more classic style of Lambrusco wine. These wines, some often of very good quality, can be found under the DOC labels Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco di Grasparossa Castelvetro and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce. These small vineyards are now producing Lambrusco with the classical hint of bitterness, who's relative dryness truly match the regions cuisine. Lambrusco, to the amazement of many people, was granted a DOCG status in 1987.
Emilia-Romagna also produces a small amount of really interesting wines in addition to Lambrusco. Of these the red Sangiovese di Romagna and Colli Bolognesi are well worth a mention, so are some other red wines, such as Colli Piacentini, made from single variety Cabernet or Pinot Noir, and Gutternio made from Barbera and Croatina.
Lets take at the wines of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Infamous sparkling wine of the 1970's Italian restaurant, often somewhat sickly sweet due to its blending of Lambrusco grapes with genrally around 15% Ancellotto grapes. These wines are mainly produced around the Parma and Modena area. The wines are produced by gigantic cooperative producers, hence their often very poor, characterless, generic flavour. The DOCG Lambrusco wines should never be confused with the other similar DOCG labelled wines.
Lambrusco di Sorbara
Sparkling Lambrusco di Sorbara is produced around the plains of the Secchia and Panaro rivers. It is made from the Lambrusco di Sorbara grape variety, one of the variants of the Lambrusco variety, but is not blended with Ancellotto. It gives a delicate wine with good balance, fruity acidity and and light ruby to garnet colour, possibly the lightest colour of all Lambrusco wines. It's fresh, pronounced character has a very distinct aroma of Violets.
Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro
Sparkling Lambrusco Grasparosso di Castelvetro is produced around the lower hills of upland around Modena, where the Appenine chain provides protection from the elements. It is made from the Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro grape variety, one of the variants of the Lambrusco variety, but is not blended with Ancellotto. The wine is deep ruby in colour, with a violet sheen and a light froth with an edge of the same hue. The bouquet is fruity, fragrant and interesting, bringing to mind the aroma of the grape. According to Agazzotti "it emanates a pleasant scent of peach-almonds". Its keen, well balanced flavour has delicious body, is well balanced in acidity and and slightly fruity, leaving a pleasant, somewhat bitter aftertaste. It makes an exellent aperitif and goes perfectly with Modena’s pastries and desserts.
Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce
Sparkling Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce is produced around the town of Capri, to the northwest of Modena. It is made from the Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce grape variety, one of the variants of the Lambrusco variety, but under Italian wine law may, and often is, blended with the native variety Fortana. It has a deep ruby colour and a purple-edged froth, reflecting the sheen of the wine itself. The scent is delicate, refreshing, persistent and fruity with a distinct vinous touch reminiscent of ripened grapes. Well scented, slightly acidic with a pleasant refreshing taste, it is of average body and moderate in alcohol content an easy, enjoyable drink, great for aperitif.